FFRF v. Gonzales : FFRF Sues Federal Bureau of Prisons over Faith-based Prison Programs

In its ninth major lawsuit challenging the "faith-based initiative," the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit May 5, 2006 in federal court challenging faith-based prison programs at the Federal Bureau of Prisons.The lawsuit challenges previous multifaith programs set up by the Bureau, as well as the Justice Department's announced plans to expand "single-faith" programs into as many as six more federal prisons.

Named are: Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales; Federal Bureau of Prisons director Harley G. Lappin, and Clay Johnson III, director, Office of Management and Budget. Plaintiffs include the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog group of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics), co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, and founder Anne Nicol Gaylor.

The lawsuit challenges the Bureau of Prisons' Life Connections Program, instigated by the Department of Justice Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, which is an 18-month program that has been operating since at least 2003 in at least five federal institutions. The Federal Bureau of Prisons suspended temporarily calls for grant applications for its proposed new "single-faith" programs after FFRF's lawsuit was filed. The lawsuit also seeks to end actions by the Office of Management and Budget, which gives a "report card" to each major federal agency which apparently grades the agencies on the extent to which they have disbursed or increased their appropriations to faith-based agencies.

Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Gonzales, Case No. 06-C-0244-S, has been assigned to Judge John Shabaz, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin.

By the end of May 2006, shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the FBP had suspended its call to accept grants to run "single faith" prison ministries. In October 2006, the Bureau quietly announced at its website that the call for single faith grants was canceled.
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